Category - Portugal

Cheap holidays to Portugal from Purple Travel

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Getting married in Portugal, a bride’s guide
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Sweet Tooth in Portugal: A guide to Portuguese desserts
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Purple Hearts… Albufeira Portugal

Getting married in Portugal, a bride’s guide

Weddings abroad are becoming more and more popular. You can top up your tan before the big day, you’re surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful destination and it will usually cost you a fraction of a big wedding in the UK. Las Vegas, Sri Lanka, France and Spain are all popular choices. But, getting married in Portugal is something special!

We spoke with one bride, Deirdre who married hubby Barry in Albufeira, Portugal last year. From handling the heat in a wedding gown, to waterparks in the days before the ceremony, she gave Purple Travel the lowdown about getting married in Portugal.

Purple Travel: Why did you decide to go abroad to get married?

Deirdre: We decided to get hitched abroad for a couple of reasons mainly; we had been to a lot of weddings. Although each wedding was special they all followed the same format and tended to blend into each other a bit. Barry also works in a wedding band so he has seen so many weddings we decided we wanted to do something a little different and personalise our experience.

We both wanted somewhere where all our friends could really enjoy themselves and somewhere we could all hang out for a week instead of just a day. A place where young and old could enjoy themselves and make a holiday out of it. The weather was another big factor; we were hoping to find a place where the weather would be nice. Also we were on a budget so a wedding abroad seemed like a fantastic option.

Purple Travel: What was it about Albufeira that made you choose it? Did you have to make a few trips before you decided?

Deirdre: I had been on many family holidays to Albufeira so the place for me was very special and held a lot of very special memories for me. Albufeira is also a fantastic place for people to enjoy themselves on holiday. The weather is usually good, the people are very friendly, there are gorgeous beaches, the food is amazing and atmosphere is second to none. It’s a fantastic place for families as it is very child friendly and there is lots to do on the beaches, waterparks etc.

It is also a fabulous place for single people or couples as the nightlife is hopping. It seemed to have something for everyone and when we looked at it, it seemed like an ideal place for our friends and family to enjoy themselves at our wedding.

Purple Travel: Did hubby take any convincing about the idea?

Deirdre: I am very enthusiastic about Albufeira but brought Barry on a trip to Albufeira to show him what I meant. We had an amazing time and have never come home from a holiday so relaxed and unwound! We were sure at that stage it was what we wanted. While we were there we hooked up with Algarve Wedding Planners, two amazing girls Paula and Karina, who showed us many of the hotels and options for getting married in Portugal. It was fantastic after a few showings we found our perfect location.

Purple Travel: It sounds very romantic, where was the wedding itself?

Deirdre: The wedding itself was in the main church in the old town Albufeira followed by a reception in the Grande Real Santa Eulalia. The place was fabulous we had a rooftop cocktail reception overlooking the sea, we were then led to an outdoor balcony where tables were decorated fabulously, the food was to die for, atmosphere was fantastic and we had a beach down a few steps to take some nice photos.

Later on that evening we had a place called Le Club to have the night part of the wedding. Barry and his friends are musicians so it was great, they played music and that was followed by lots of dancing with an amazing playlist and D.J. The staff were fantastic, we danced until at least six, the bar stayed open and we were never told to leave. That’s the great thing about a foreign wedding; the regular opening hours and curfews don’t apply. That was another big plus for us.

 Purple Travel: How did you handle the heat on the day? In a wedding dress, we can only imagine it got a little toasty!?

Deirdre: Wearing a wedding dress in the heat is everything you would expect it to be, very hot and a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t one of those brides who didn’t want to get out of their dress. I couldn’t wait to get out of it! It was probably a bit too heavy so bear it in mind if you decide to get married abroad.

Purple Travel: Did you have local help, e.g. a wedding planner, hotel manager something like that?

Deirdre: As I said, we had a wedding planner, Algarve Wedding Planners. We really could not have done it without their help. They were fantastic! I looked online, wrote to them, told them the type of budget we had and asked what we could get for it. They wrote back with loads of options. We arranged to meet up with them when we were on holiday. After that we met them at home. They come over for a wedding fair every year and they bring lot of people to help with your wedding in Portugal. You name it, they can tell you about it, hotel managers, musicians, florists, makeup artists hairdressers etc. all with portfolios of their work. In one day we had booked hair, makeup, flowers, reception location, menu, music. It was super!

Purple Travel: Was there a lot of paperwork involved, e.g. did you need to sort out licences etc at home first?

Deirdre: There was lots of paperwork involved but there is lots of paperwork for any wedding. You needed to get all the same letters of freedom etc you need for home. I also remember that you needed a solicitor over in Portugal to translate documents but that was all set up by the wedding planners. They knew exactly what we needed to do so it was a relief having them for that part.

Purple Travel: So, would you recommend getting married abroad?

Deirdre: I absolutely would recommend a wedding abroad. We had such a memorably, magical day. I’m not great on organisation but having wedding planners there to make sure everything runs smoothly was fantastic. We had a great time but not only with the day but the whole lead up. Meeting up with friends and family on beaches, in pubs, for dinner, at water parks was so much fun. It can at times be stressful, it’s very hectic and there are so many people to meet and hang out with it can be exhausting but very, very exciting. The excitement of meeting your best friends, on a holiday before your big day is just unforgettable.

The day was perfect, the experience amazing, we would do it again in a heartbeat!

A huge thank you once again to Deirdre for her bride’s guide to getting married in Portugal. If you’re thinking of a wedding abroad, firstly, congratulations and why give Purple Travel a call to find out more on 0207 993 9228.

Sweet Tooth in Portugal: A guide to Portuguese desserts

The Portuguese sure like their food. Although a relatively small country, their cuisine is somewhat diversified and distinctive in each of the different regions. They value their meats, their seafood is some of the freshest in the world and their vegetables are cooked to perfection, but most of all – the Portuguese love their desserts. You will never have your plate cleared in a Portuguese restaurant without being asked, “What would you like for dessert?”

For those of you that have visited Portugal, you will have probably noticed that every street has at least one pastelaria (pastry shop), usually occupied by a line of locals and tourists alike who have followed the sweet smells of fresh bread and toasted almonds. Dessert specialities include more than a whopping 200 different types of pastries. This national penchant for sweets seems to have originated during the Moorish occupation; in the 15th century, there was the sugar cane planted in Madeira. Then, sometime in the 17th and 18th centuries, Portuguese convents began to be known for their sweet pastries, including specialities such as “toucinho do céu” (heaven’s lard) and “barriga de freiras” (nun’s belly). The convents would frequently compete to see which could produce the best sweets and desserts. There are even stories of the famous Belém pastries, whose recipe remains a closely guarded secret, or the ‘Abade de Priscos Pudim’, dating back to a 14th century legacy from one of the best Portuguese cooks.

There are simply too many desserts to list them all, but if you have one week in Portugal, this is a list of the best seven Portuguese desserts – one for each day of your stay:

The seven best Portuguese desserts

Toucinho do Céu | Translating to ‘Heaven’s Bacon’, this dessert was originally made with pork lard by convent nuns. These were women who understood the intrinsic ingredients of any good dessert: ridiculous amounts of sugar, a boat load of egg yellows and of course, more calories than you can imagine.

Differing from modern almond cakes, Heaven’s Bacon is extremely moist, rather than battery. You can find Toucinho do Ceu anywhere in Portugal, but for a more traditional (and delicious) version – head north to the city of Guimaraes.

Aletria | You will be surprised to hear the main ingredient for this dessert – a very thin kind of noodle (like vermicelli) that was brought into Portugal when the Moors settled. The Portuguese, sweet-toothed by nature, then turned these noodles into a sugary treat by boiling them in milk and adding butter, egg yolk, lemon zest and a sprinkle of cinnamon, creating something a little similar to rice pudding. A very traditional dessert, no Christmas table in Portugal is complete without a generous tray of Aletria.

Ovos Moles | Another dessert that centres on Portugal’s favourite ingredient combination: sugar and eggs galore. Ovos moles means ‘soft eggs’, which pretty much sums up what this dessert is. Portuguese nuns once used egg whites to iron their garments and create this recipe accidently – so as not to waste the remaining egg yellows. Ovos moles come in rolled cakes, inside traditional clay pots or, more famously, inside light wheat dough in the shape of items that symbolize Aveiro and its river.

Azevias de Mertola | Another dessert with origins inside religious institutions, Azevias de Mertola originates from the southern town of Mertola, where nuns devoted themselves to God and to making heavenly treats. The dessert is made up of fried dough pockets, filled with a smooth and creamy paste made of mashed chickpeas. Don’t worry, it tasted nothing like humous; Azevias are super sweet and extra delicious.

Egg threads from Purple Travel

Image via @ Wikicommons

Bolinhos de Amendoa | Aside from sun, white sands and crystal waters, the Algarve is famous for the creative use of almonds. 
Marzipan is taken to a whole new level by Algarvian sweet makers, filling the almond paste with an egg and sugar concoction known as “fios de ovos” – egg threads. Bolinhos de Amendoa is one of the most attractive sweets in the entire country, being most popularly presented in fruit shapes.

Blog Pastel

Image via @ Wikicommons

Pastel de Belem |These egg custard tarts are probably one of the most popular desserts amongst tourists. Originating from the area of Belem in Lisbon, Pastel de Belem is found all over Portugal, under the name Pastel de Nata. Pastel de Belem has been elected one of the “7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy” (yes this is a real thing!); people queue up in Belem to taste this cake where it was originally created, served warm straight out of the oven, with a burnt crust on top, a crumbly pastry base and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. This take-away treat is the perfect companion to a cup of coffee or tea.

Bolo Rei from Purple Travel

Image via @ Wikicommons

Bolo Rei (King Cake) | A traditional Portuguese cake that is typically made at Christmas and eaten up to Dia de Reis (the day of Kings). Its shape resembles a king’s crown. Made from soft, white dough, raisins, nuts and crystallized fruit, it is not so dissimilar from an English Christmas cake. When families bake this cake, they usually include a little prize within it and whoever slices the piece with the prize has to either bake or buy the next cake the following year.

You should read… Purple Hearts… Albufeira

Purple Hearts… Albufeira Portugal

When you think of Albufeira Portugal the tourist capital of the Algarve, you first think of its golden beaches and pulsating nightlife. These features attract droves of holidaymakers from all over Europe, particularly during the summer months when you can’t swing a lilo without banging into another tourist. Coming under the municipal area of Faro, Albufeira covers an area of approximately 140 km², with more than 40,000 resident inhabitants including a whopping 4,000 foreigners who have chosen to live here. But how has Albufeira earned so much popularity and yet retained its traditions? Read on to find out why, this week, we heart Albufeira Portugal…

The history of Albufeira

Back in Roman times, bustling Albufeira was called Baltum, up until in the 8th century when the Moors who occupied the town renamed it Al-Buhera – The Castle on the Sea. Today, vestiges of aqueducts, roads and Roman bridges can be still be seen in Paderne and Guia. Much later, in the middle of the 19th century, the fishing industry did much to revive the economy of the town, soon becoming the principal means of income for the region. Tourism only began to flourish from the ‘60s onwards, providing a new breath of air for the locals, leading to the town becoming a city in 1986. Thanks to an ever-growing tourist industry, Albufeira has become one of the most desired holiday destinations in Europe.

Best beaches in Albufeira

Albufeira beaches are the most popular in the Algarve, yet with more than twenty golden, sandy beaches to choose from, many of which are blue flagged, they never get too overcrowded. The most well-known is Fisherman’s Beach, where many of the Algarve’s summer parties are held. Despite this, the beach has managed to retain its traditional appearance, of which the fishing industry is still very much a part – expect to see colourful Algarve fishing boats dancing on the waves both day and night. Falésia Beach, a huge length of fine golden sand running from Albufeira to Vilamoura, is another great spot, particularly if you’re bringing the kids as its blue flagged. Similarly, Olhos d’ Agua or “eyes of the water” as it translates to, is a safe beach that’s very popular with tourists due to its myriad resort places to eat and drink along the beach. It gets its name from the freshwater springs underneath the sands, which can sometimes be seen to bubble up at low tide. Praia do Túnel, is situated at the front of the old Albufeira town. It is a magnificent wide stretch of golden sand, embraced by soft golden-red cliffs and boasting striking rock formations in the water. Access is through a ‘tunnel’ in the cliffs under a hotel just past the tourist office with a few steps down to the beach – hence its name.

You should read… Getting Married in Portugal, a Bride’s Guide

What to see in Albueria

Albufeira’s old town centre has a charming traditional feel. White-washed houses and narrow, cobbled streets lined with cafés and boutiques lead to a picturesque central square. In the square, you will find yourself surrounded by bars and restaurants where you can taste some of the local fish-based gastronomy. The historic centre exposes Albufeira’s Arab past through its impressive architecture. The charming, meandering streets are narrow and the jasmine-scented air makes walking through the neighbourhood a pleasure. You can walk to the Castillo del Mar from here – the ‘castle by the sea‘ – a fortress built by the Arabs as a significant point of defence. Culture enthusiasts will enjoy discovering the rich heritage of Albufeira, particularly if they visit the Museum of Archaeology. The museum showcases fascinating artefacts from the pre-historic, Roman, Muslim, medieval and modern periods. The Church of São Sebastião on Praça Miguel Bombarda has an impressive Manueline doorway that provides an excellent photo opportunity. From there, Rua 5 de Outubro leads through a tunnel to the Fisherman’s beach, where you can see Albufeira’s colourful fishing boats surfing the waves. One of the best attractions in Albufeira is the Zoomarine Aquarium, where visitors can watch animal shows and even have a chance to swim with dolphins. Go-carting and horse-riding are also popular activities.

Where to party in Albufeira

And if you’re looking for some late night revelry, there’s plenty of it in fun-loving, lively Albufeira. The Strip is the place to head to – a succession of booming bars, restaurants and clubs – and the hub of Albufeira’s nightlife scene. The owners of the bars and restaurants are frequently expats, who make you feel at home straight away and enjoy nothing more than a good natter. For adult holidays there are happy hours, strip clubs and late night partying on balmy summers evening. And the best bit? Drinks are seriously cheap.

What to eat in Albufeira

In the foreground of Albuferia’s dining scene is its fishing industry.  Traditional Algarve dishes include the famous Cataplana, a seafood and shellfish dish, and grilled sardines. Tuna, sea bream, monkfish, horse mackerel or alimados, squid and many other delicacies are prepared mostly in stews, ragouts or grilled, or boiled – any of which is sure to be excellent. You won’t find fresher fish than here. Desserts are another strong point; cakes are mostly made from dried fruits, and other titbits are made from almonds, figs and carob beans. There is an ice-cream of carob, the Dom Rodrigo, and we recommend you try the Almond Liqueur, Alfarroba (carob) liqueur and Medronho.

You should read: Sweet Tooth in Portugal: A guide to Portuguese desserts

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